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Old October 13, 2021, 10:06 AM   #1
jackstrawIII
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New Handgun Cartridge Development

As an avid rifle shooter, I'm used to seeing at least 1-2 new rifle cartridges hitting the shelves every year. Bigger ones, smaller ones, faster ones, slower ones, fat ones, skinny ones, etc. It's nonstop.

With that said, why don't we see new handgun cartridges popping up more often? I can't really think of many (if any) new cartridges since the 90s that have attained widespread use.

If the rifle community is willing to adopt new cartridges all the time (even though we certainly don't NEED them), why aren't we seeing anything new in the pistol world?
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Old October 13, 2021, 10:35 AM   #2
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Because popular pistol competitions are now about how fast you can shoot and 15 meters seems to be “long range.”

Back when silhouette shooting was a popular game, single shot long barrel pistols like the Contender were a thing. People who still shoot this sort of pistol shoot all sorts of wildcat cartridges that we hand load.

For hunting, we have everything from .17 to .50. It’s fair to say that no one finds full house .50 S&W fun to shoot unless a young strong bull of a man with a Thor like grip and plugs and muffs, launching lead walnuts at supersonic speeds. We already have all we can handle, and everything in between.

Tell me something better than my 30-06 bolt action rifle, unless maybe it’s a .308?

Then you rifle guys cut down a barrel, call a crappy stock a “forearm brace” and register it as a pistol. So we have all your cartridges, too.

Why don’t you rifle guys sell .35 Remington lever action rifles anymore?
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Old October 13, 2021, 11:21 AM   #3
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I agree with everything you said. Especially about the cut down rifle / forearm brace deal. I also think that Fireballs, Contenders, ect are sawed off rifles. As Shokwave type guns are sawed off shotguns.
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Old October 13, 2021, 12:30 PM   #4
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With many rifle cartridges you deal with minor changes to brass shape with an existing diameter of the case and then reshape that a bit and get a reamer to bore the chamber.

Revolvers generally don't do well with bottle-necked cases so you would pretty much have to design/make new brass for a really different straight-walled case.

Semi-autos run into a "what will fit in a magazine" and usually an existing grip frame. Getting the geometry of a "new" case to feed in an existing frame is not as easy as the bolt feed in a rifle. Then you have to convince enough folks that this new cartridge does something the existing ones don't to be somewhat commercially successful. I think the added engineering costs here make companies very leery about experimentation here.

How many years was the 5.7x28 out before anyone besides FN made pistols for it? (Just in time for ammo to dry up).
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Old October 13, 2021, 12:34 PM   #5
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22TMC and 22TMC 9R.

Even had guns made for it.
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Old October 13, 2021, 12:48 PM   #6
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I also think that Fireballs, Contenders, ect are sawed off rifles. As Shokwave type guns are sawed off shotguns.
They are, but they "aren't". The issue goes back the rather screwy definitions in the NFA 34 and the hugely flawed Supreme Court ruling in Miller vs, US that upheld it.

the guns you mention do not meet the legal definition of rifle or shotgun. They do meet the legal definition of handgun. And nowhere in the law is the term "sawed off" to be found.

Personally, I don't consider them to be "sawed off" anything. They were never made longer, nothing was sawed off.

I realize this is a distinction without a difference to most people and casual conversations, but in law, it does make a difference.

Take an existing rifle or shotgun, and shorten it below the Federal legal length (barrel or overall length) and you have created a "short" firearm that falls under the NFA regulations and requires a Federal license, special investigations and tax in order to possess. Failure to do that is a FELONY.

Create "from scratch" a short firearm, one that NEVER had a stock, or a rifle/shotgun length barrel, and you have made a handgun, even if it uses a rifle or shotgun action, its legally the same as all other handguns, and not an NFA regulated item.

Quote:
why don't we see new handgun cartridges popping up more often? I can't really think of many (if any) new cartridges since the 90s that have attained widespread use.
The main factors at work here are both mechanical and consumer driven. There are a wide variety of rifle rounds, big, small, short, fat, etc. that fit and work fine in a lot of existing rifle actions. There is less versatility in common handgun designs.

Also a large segment of the handgun market is driven by police and military use. And that influence extends deep into the personal protection market as well. The sporting market is a much smaller segment of handgun buyers than it is of rifle buyers.

One thing you failed to mention is how many of the "new" rifle rounds become widespread common use rounds? Not many. New cartridges often sell well, at first as many people will buy one to check it out, but what are they doing half a dozen years down the road?? Usually not much, sales wise.

The firearms industry has its own versions of fads, fashion, and style. New and different only gets you so much, and once the honeymoon is over it becomes a matter of practicality, PRICE, availabilty, and performance, and new cartridges that don't provide some clear advantage in ALL these areas usually fade rather rapidly.
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Old October 13, 2021, 02:43 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by wild cat mccane View Post
22TMC and 22TMC 9R.

Even had guns made for it.
Introduced 2012, so basically 10 years old.

Note quite the frequent introduction as the OP asked about for rifle cartridges.
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Old October 13, 2021, 04:26 PM   #8
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I have always wanted a 44 auto round, just scale the 45 ACP down for a .429 bullet and run it in any 1911 or 45 ACP sized pistol.
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Old October 13, 2021, 06:26 PM   #9
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There was a long thread about a .44 Russian Auto but I suspect it foundered on the difficulty of having a barrel made.
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Old October 13, 2021, 08:02 PM   #10
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.44 Auto Mag was designed in the 60s and came out in commercially in 1970. Only chambered in the Auto Mag pistol, as far as I know
Cut the case down, say to 10mm length, work up loading data. It would be interesting.
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Old October 13, 2021, 08:52 PM   #11
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Beyond a few interesting revolver calibers...what more could you need that 9mm, .40, or .45 don't provide?
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Old October 13, 2021, 10:24 PM   #12
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Beyond a few interesting revolver calibers...what more could you need that 9mm, .40, or .45 don't provide?
Exactly… but couldn’t we say the same thing about the 243, 300 Win Mag, and 375 H&H? Or the 223, the 30-06, and the 338 Win Mag? Or the 22-250, 270 Win, and the 9.3x62?

My point is, there have been enough rifle calibers to meet every “need” since at least 50 years ago… yet we still find room for minute improvements and variances in the rifle world, which has led to the constant development of “slightly better” (which is debatable) rifle cartridges. Whereas in pistol world.. we’re all just happy with what we have.

I’m not saying one is better than the other… I just find the different attitude towards rifles and pistols to be very intriguing.

I shoot my pistols way more than my rifles, and I’m very content with only 3 cartridges:
- a couple 22s for playing with
- a couple 9mm in case I ever (God forbid) have to shoot a person
- a couple 357 in case I ever have to shoot a bear
You could debate my choices, but that’s entirely beside the point. The point is, these are all “old fashioned” rounds that have been popular since way before I was born… and I’m perfectly content that my needs are met.

But when it comes to rifles, I shoot a considerable array of calibers from a span over over 100 years… and am still concerned that I don’t always have the “best tool for the job” so I continue to search for something better… or even theorize my own wildcats to get exactly what I want. Totally different attitude and I’m not sure why.
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Old October 13, 2021, 10:48 PM   #13
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Beyond a few interesting revolver calibers...what more could you need that 9mm, .40, or .45 don't provide?
what more could you need? In revolvers, what the .357Mag, .44 Mag, and a few interesting others provide.

In Semi autos? Pretty much the same thing. .357 & .44magnum, .44AMP & .357AMP, and .45 Win Mag ALL do things the 9mm, .40, and .45ACP can't provide.

Are they duty class guns in those calibers? No. Are they pocket /CCW class guns? Hell no! If that's the limit of your interest, you don't need them. I have broader tastes.
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Old October 13, 2021, 11:24 PM   #14
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As long as the FBI/IWBA continues to use the same old overly simplistic, dated Ballistics Gel Testing Protocol, there's no point in anyone bothering to develop any new handgun cartridges because the current testing protocol makes all handgun cartridges look more or less the same until you get into Super Magnum territory.

Consider the .357 SIG cartridge, by all accounts it is a fantastic round which statistically duplicates the performance of the legendary .357 Magnum Law Enforcement loads, yet it has practically fallen completely out of the race when it comes to what Law Enforcement officers and civilians alike are carrying. Why? Because if you shoot it into a block of gelatin it just doesn't appear to do anything that the 9mm Luger cartridge cannot. But how can that be? It's just a more powerful 9mm, right? It's higher velocity and delivers more energy than 9mm Luger, so in must be better. Indeed it is, but without a proper testing medium to adequately showcase the advantages, it just doesn't look any better.

Same goes for other pistol cartridges that came out in recent decades. Until you get into Magnum territory, the advantages just aren't visible in Ballistics Gel, and other variables which used to be extremely important such as straight line penetration through hard barriers has been dialed back in recent years, so even the advantages which are visible in that category are no longer considered important.

I still say that FBI/IWBA Ballistics Gel Testing Protocol ought to be updated to include those high tech simulated torsos made by the likes of Ballistics Dummy Labs with simulated bones, organs, and even blood. Then we'd start to see more differences between handgun cartridges. But lets face it, that's the last thing that the FBI wants to do when their existing protocol successfully enabled them to save money in the long run by switching back to the less expensive 9mm Luger cartridge by convincing everyone that unspecified advances in ballistics technology made 9mm Luger more or less equal to more powerful cartridges, to heck with the laws of physics.

That being said, evidently there may still be some room for new pistol cartridges of greater power, as the 7.65 FK cartridge seems to have made some waves as a new Hunting/Bear Defense round. So as long as cartridge manufacturers use 10mm Auto as a benchmark, aggressively market the cartridge for Hunting/Bear Defense, and ship it out to every YouTuber for T&E, they might be able to make some headway there.
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Old October 14, 2021, 12:02 AM   #15
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Quote:
Beyond a few interesting revolver calibers...what more could you need that 9mm, .40, or .45 don't provide?
.22 LR and something large game hunting punch like .44 magnum, .454 or the .475 or .500.

You need .357 Magnum for fast and flat shooting and load it down as low as you like, all the way to target loads.

Then you need things that are really fun, like .32 H&R magnum because it's a straight-walled 32-20 and people forget that we shoot handguns for FUN. I challenge anyone to say they have shot .32 Long or .32 H&R and they didn't have a grin after the first shot.

I'm so tired of people talking about "bear defense" that do not live in grizzly country. Ask people that hunt black bear what they use.

All of this ballistic gel stuff is nonsense. Go out and shoot some whitetails. Then you'll see what shot placement is all about. Plenty of deer killed with .32-20 rifles and plenty of deer lost hit with 30-06.

The goal of a self defense handgun is to deter an attacker, not penetrate 14" of their gel.
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Old October 14, 2021, 07:32 AM   #16
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Are they duty class guns in those calibers? No. Are they pocket /CCW class guns? Hell no! If that's the limit of your interest, you don't need them. I have broader tastes.
You’re right, to say that I’m only interested in 3 pistol cartridges is a gross exaggeration. And people with different needs/interests (such as handgun hunting, “duty use” whatever that means, pocket guns, cowboy action shooting, and more) have a much broader set of interests than I do.

But, I guess that’s the point. With so many handgun shooters in the world with such a wide distribution of interests, and with the known shortcomings and limitations of the rounds that exist… why doesn’t “the industry” give us more new options on a regular basis? And again, the reason I ask is because they’re tripping over themselves to release new rifle cartridges, so they obviously are making money doing it. Why is there no money in new pistol development?

I have some theories, but I want to hear other people’s ideas.
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Old October 14, 2021, 09:31 AM   #17
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Because “the industry” is only interested in making a profit. Why make something like .357 Sig when you can just make Gen 6 with cosmetic changes and get a bunch of guys to trade in Gen 5 because now you can get 13 in the magazine instead of 11. Then you can make another model that’s small and light and only has 7 in the magazine, and get them all to buy that.

Let’s face it, we actually shoot. That makes us the unusual ones.
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Old October 14, 2021, 12:09 PM   #18
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With rifles, you can always sell something. No matter how niche and unlikely to make it big.

But with handguns, you have to create a market and identify (or make people believe there is) a need.

You can dream up all the wonderful uses that you want for ".41 Luger". But if you can't convince people that it is better than cartridges with 100+ years of development, it won't go anywhere.

One of the most successful 'recent' handgun cartridges, I believe, is .327 Federal Magnum (2009). But even it ended up with a niche market and gets little talk any more.


Quote:
They are, but they "aren't". The issue goes back the rather screwy definitions in the NFA 34 and the hugely flawed Supreme Court ruling in Miller vs, US that upheld it.

the guns you mention do not meet the legal definition of rifle or shotgun. They do meet the legal definition of handgun. And nowhere in the law is the term "sawed off" to be found.
Varies at a state level.
And in weird ways, sometimes.
In Utah, for example, what might fit the Federal definition of a "handgun" but has more than 12" overall length, falls into a "firearm" catch-all. It is neither a handgun, nor a rifle. And, sometimes, legality is debatable.
And it gets even more confusing and potentially illegal with short, unrifled barrels.
Utah's definitions are terrible.
State-level always tries to make things worse, it seems.

Our old friend, D Pris, was supposed to be sent a test sample Shockwave to review, so an article could be published just before public release of the model(s).
But we discussed Utah's definitions a bit, between the two of us, as well as between him, his FFL, and Mossberg. In the end, it was decided that neither he nor the FFL was willing to take possession without making sure it would be kosher.

He had to wait about 3 months, before the last letter came back, verifying that all of the state and local LE agencies default to the Federal definitions for an "oddity" like the Shockwave - because they *knew* that the state definitions were garbage.

By that time, they were already on the market and he had to write the piece from a totally different angle.
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Old October 14, 2021, 12:36 PM   #19
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One of the most successful 'recent' handgun cartridges, I believe, is .327 Federal Magnum (2009). But even it ended up with a niche market and gets little talk any more.
In my mind, the .327 Fed Mag is a dandy little cartridge that is sort of like a 32-20 magnum. I was on the cusp of buying a Single Seven when a .32 H&R Single Six in mint condition turned up for trade. It's not the really great single six with the 32-20 conversion cylinder... but it's a joy. One of my favorites.

It makes a dandy woods walking gun, and I am talking about subsonic 32 H&R loads. Like a big .22. And it would make a fun little lever action carbine, too. If Contenders were a thing again, I would want a .327 barrel.

The real problem is... other than a little extra weight, the .357 Magnum is honestly "better." I just like old cowboy type things.
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Old October 14, 2021, 02:21 PM   #20
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Originally Posted by stinkeypete View Post
In my mind, the .327 Fed Mag is a dandy little cartridge that is sort of like a 32-20 magnum. I was on the cusp of buying a Single Seven when a .32 H&R Single Six in mint condition turned up for trade. It's not the really great single six with the 32-20 conversion cylinder... but it's a joy. One of my favorites.

It makes a dandy woods walking gun, and I am talking about subsonic 32 H&R loads. Like a big .22. And it would make a fun little lever action carbine, too. If Contenders were a thing again, I would want a .327 barrel.

The real problem is... other than a little extra weight, the .357 Magnum is honestly "better." I just like old cowboy type things.
Henry makes a Lever in .327 magnum, also .41 magnum. At least someone is showing some love for these two ‘niche’ cartridges.
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Old October 14, 2021, 04:02 PM   #21
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Henry makes a Lever in .327 magnum, also .41 magnum. At least someone is showing some love for these two ‘niche’ cartridges.
Unfortunately neither the .327 or .41 is offered with the side-gate (at least not on the Henry website).
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Old October 14, 2021, 04:12 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by FrankenMauser View Post
You can dream up all the wonderful uses that you want for ".41 Luger".
Better perhaps is the not quite a success of the .41 Avenger, a .45 ACP, or better yet, .451 Detonics (seen any of that around lately) necked down to .41 in a 1911 frame from JD Jones of SSK.
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Old October 14, 2021, 06:07 PM   #23
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Lots of comments. Not read them all as of yet. To me the biggest constraints is that it's a handgun. Your hand has to fit around the grip. Which holds the Magazine and ammo. This severely reduces the possible over all length and width of the cartridge. Also most handguns are not bolt or gas operated limiting chamber pressures to what a delayed blowback system can handle.. Rifles do not suffer these problem, the actions are much longer, thus a lot more room to work in, and much stronger actions generally available.
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Old October 14, 2021, 06:17 PM   #24
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I think the era of new handgun cartridge development was the 60s through the 90s. There were new cartridges introduced and guns to go with them, some of them are still with us, others not. 9mm Federal, 32 H&R, 327 Federal, 41 Magnum, 22 Jet, 256 Winchester Magnum, 45 Winchester Magnum, 44 Auto Mag, 357 AutoMag, 9mm Winchester Mag, 9X23, 9x21, 10mm Magnum, 10mm Auto, 40 S&W, 357 SIG, 45 GAP, the list goes on. They didn't provide enough of an increase in performance to make people want a new gun, or they were too much. I feel the same way about some of the new rifle cartridges, either too much or not enough to bother with.
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Old October 14, 2021, 08:48 PM   #25
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Your hand has to fit around the grip. Which holds the Magazine and ammo.
only in a semi auto, and now only thanks to stupid laws that define handguns with magazines out side the grips as assault weapons, (and as such prohibited in some states). Think of some Olympic match pistols and the classic C96 "Broomhandle" Mauser, which do not have magazines in the grip frame.

Or, for that matter, an AR "pistol". None of these has cartridge length limited by what an average person can get their hand around.

Also.
Quote:
Also most handguns are not bolt or gas operated limiting chamber pressures to what a delayed blowback system can handle..
Some are bolt action and some are gas operated, I have examples of both, but they are not common and not what most people look for (and by most I mean volume of numbers). The standard service pistols for over a century have mostly been locked breech, not delayed blowback, but that is not for pressure reason, its for size and weight limitations.

The "roller lock" system used by H&K for 50K+psi rifle rounds is a delayed blowback. And the Astra 600 is a straight blowback 9mm Parabellum.

its not that a certain locking system can't/won't contain high pressure, its the PRACTICALITY of making one that will, small enough and light enough to not only work as a handgun, but also be acceptable to the market. (And, the govt).
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